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Queens residents oppose public charge, census question

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The U.S. Census — a count of all persons residing within the United States — became a political firestorm when the Trump administration demanded the addition of a question on the legal status of the respondent.

In Queens, community groups that work with immigrants have a daunting task. The census numbers are used to make decisions of federal funding and determine representation in Congress.

However, immigrants — undocumented and otherwise — are concerned about providing information on the census, for fear that it could expose their families or jeopardize their chances at citizenship. On Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 in Jackson Heights, the community group Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) organized “Stay Safe and Being Counted” at Diversity Plaza, to allay community concerns, describe the importance of the census and gather public comment on the proposed changes.

A lot of people don’t know about how the important the census is and how it affects their day to day life, noted Roksana Mun, director of Strategy & Trainings at DRUM and organizer of the event. There are opportunities for the public to provide feedback on the census changes, the next of which should happen within a month or two.

“They [the community] thought it was a done deal,” Mun noted.

The public education workshop, which gathered responses from the community to be submitted during the feedback period, was endorsed by 10 other community groups across Queens, including Make the Road New York, Chhaya Community Development Corporation and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. City Councilman Daniel Dromm and state Senate candidate Jessica Ramos and state Assembly candidate Catalina Cruz were present as well.

In addition to concerns over census data collection, Queens communities are feeling the chilling effect of the “public charge” rule, a standard under which a green card can be denied if the applicant will be “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.”

Though the idea of public charge is not a new one, on Sept. 22, the Trump administration proposed changes to the rule to also include public benefits, including SNAP, Medicaid and public housing. This is a reversal of a 1999 federal policy to exclude these programs and serve eligible families and their U.S. citizen children.

The administration may go as far as including the Childhood Health Insurance Plan (CHIP). Use of any of these services over the previous 36 months would be a “heavily weighted negative factor” and would lead to the rejection of an application.

Of course, the precise definition of that standard and which immigrants it would apply to (there are exceptions) is unclear. Refugees are technically excluded, as are a few other applicants for certain types of visas. In all, it is complex and seemingly arbitrary to the layperson. The ambiguity about the rule already has a chilling effect on families in the borough.

“There are already people not seeking healthcare because they want to become citizens,” Mun noted. “They want to make our communities unlivable” and noted that the goal of the “enforcement heavy” Trump administration was to de-populate the community. “They want to remove services and create an incentive for people to leave,” she continued. Immigrant communities in Northern Queens have already been rocked by the cancellation of Temporary Protective Status, wherein the government cancelled the legal status of thousands of long-term residents and informed them to prepare for deportation.

The proposed public charge rule will hurt children as well. Even if they are be citizens, unless their parents are financially secure, they will likely go hungry or not receive necessary healthcare. Particularly, if CHIP is included, it would be a needlessly cruel punishment for parents and children alike.

“People need to understand that regardless of how you feel about people receiving benefits, this is unconstitu­tional,” Mun said, “everyone must be counted.” “Everyone benefits from these [federally funded] services and you are only hurting yourself,” she concluded.

The public commentary on the census question is intended to be reopened sometime next month.

Updated 6:02 am, October 31, 2018
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Reader feedback

Wasaskedbefore from Queens says:
I'm a queens resident who is a CITIZEN. I dont oppose it. Plus, you idiots think that this question wasn't on past censuses? Of course it was! 2006 and census' before that. Look it up and do your homework!
Oct. 31, 5:16 am
Helton from Flushing says:
Prem - try to understand the ridiculousness of the statement, "a green card can be denied if the applicant will be “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.” So, according to you, we should allow people into this country who cannot take financial care of themselves and their families. How could any hard working taxpayer have trouble understanding that logic?
Oct. 31, 12:43 pm
Bob F from Glen Oaks says:
Anything for a vote to win so Democrats can eat chicken soup to survive.
Oct. 31, 12:45 pm
Jim from Flushing says:
I like this guy below "wasaskedbefore" talking about doing homework. The census is done every 10 years, there was no 2006 census. Do YOUR Homework: https://www.npr.org/2018/03/27/597436512/fact-check-has-citizenship-been-a-standard-census-question
Oct. 31, 1:49 pm
speak for yourself please from queens says:
Calvin you have the right to your opinion but you are just plain lying when you say Queens shares your opinions. I and my Queens associates believe the citizenship is earned and meaningful. On the census we want to count citizens and make sure they are properly represented in the House. We do not want for this purpose to count visitors, students or illegal aliens. All three of these groups are interesting for statistical purposes but not important for our nation's census. Maybe you would want to go back to our forefathers who decide for the census to count slaves as three fifths of a person. We can do the same for illegals? Is that your idea??
Oct. 31, 2:42 pm
Wasaskedbefore from Queens says:
Jim from Flushing says: I like this guy below "wasaskedbefore" talking about doing homework. The census is done every 10 years, there was no 2006 census. Do YOUR Homework: Sorry jerk, I mistyped since I am typing from a phone. And YES! It was asked before from 2000 census to the 1970 census.
Oct. 31, 5:10 pm
Jr from Queens says:
1940 census questions: Name: Name of each person whose usual place of residence on April 1, 1940, was in this household. Be sure to include:Persons temporarily absent from household. Write "Ab" after names of such persons.  Children under 1 year of age. Write "Infant" if child has not been given a first name.  Enter X after name of person furnishing information. Relation: Relationship of this person to the head of the household, as wife, daughter, father, mother-in-law, grandson, lodger, lodger's wife, servant, hired hand, etc... Personal Description: Sex - Male (M), Female (F).Color or race.Age at last birthday.Marital status - Single (S), Married (M), Widowed (Wd), Divorced (D). Education: Attended school or college any time since March 1, 1940? (Yes or No)Highest grade of school completed. Place of Birth: If born in the United States, give State, Territory, or possession. If foreign born, give country in which birthplace was situated on January 1, 1937. Distinguish Canada-French from Canada-English and Irish Free State (Eire) from Northern Ireland. Citizenship: Citizenship of the foreign born. Residence, April 1, 1935: IN WHAT PLACE DID THIS PERSON LIVE ON April 1, 1935? For a person who, on April 1, 1935, was living in the same house as at present, enter in Col. 17 "Same house," and for one living in a 
Oct. 31, 5:28 pm
Jr from Queens says:
It says "citizenship: citizenship of the foreign born"
Oct. 31, 5:29 pm
Celtic from Bayside says:
Forget about asking some BS census question. Just start the round up of all illegal aliens immediately, including the joker who wrote this article. Look at what has become of once great Queens, thanks to liberal left wing mafia ineptitude and their pure ignorance of American laws. Our great WW2 vets are turning over in their graves knowing they dies in order for illegal savages to walk into our country freely.
Nov. 1, 3:30 am

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